Helvetica, which can also be referred to as Neue Haas Grotesk is among some of the most commonly used fonts by graphic designers. It is a sans-serif typeface that was developed back in 1957 by Max Miedinger, a Swiss typeface designer.
Some of the most notable features of this font include the termination of strokes on horizontal or vertical lines, narrow spacing between letters, and a high x-height. Capital letters also tend to have a wide and uniform width.
While popular, Helvetica is not the only good typeface under this category. There are other equally, if not more, impressive typefaces you can choose when working on your designs.
Some examples of exceptional Helvetica alternatives include Roboto, Arimo, Works Sans, and Nimbus Sans L. Nonetheless, the best free alternative to Helvetica is Inter which is easy to use and comes in a variety of weights to suit different purposes.
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One of the reasons to use an alternative is that Helvetica is fairly common and that means your work will not necessarily stand out from other artists. Second, the platform on which you are creating your designs may require something slightly different.
For example, some fonts work well for mobile screens while others are more suitable for computers and big screens. There are also fonts that are versatile enough to work on just about any screen or print media.
Regardless of the reason you may need an alternative, we have prepared a list of some of the most impressive fonts in the sans-serif family.
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One of the best alternatives to Helvetica is Inter by Rasmus Andersson. It stands out from many other options because it is optimized to be viewed on screens.
That means it can be a good choice when crafting messages or designs to be showcased on the Internet or TV screen. If you are designing a website and want to give your user interface a touch of class, this might be your ideal pick.
It offers more generous spacing than options in the neo-grotesque category. That ultimately makes it possible for you to add negative letter spacing even when you choose large fonts.
It is worth pointing out that the more you increase the size of this font the more identical it will look to Helvetica. An outstanding difference between Helvetica and Inter is that the former features horizontal or vertical terminals while the latter does not include these properties.
It is also important to note that Inter is more legible when compared to Helvetica. Inter is available in nine weights so you can keep switching from one to another until you find the one that is the most appropriate for your project.
Users can also switch to italics to place emphasis on certain sections of their writing. You can find and download Inter directly from Google Fonts.
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Roboto is one of the most popular fonts for Android devices. It was developed by Christian Robertson and released to the public in 2012.
One of the best things about this font is that it is an open-source alternative to Helvetica. That means you can make slight changes to it if you have the know-how. It’s free as well.
Its lowercase letters seem thinner when compared to Helvetica, so that should be one of the things you watch out for when trying to decide which of the two to use.
Another point to note is that it is optimized for screens and can therefore be a good choice for computer applications. if you are using it in an Android application, you’ll notice that it seems quite familiar but that is because it is rampantly used on that platform.
If you are designing a user interface that needs to have a lot of spelled-out sections, this can be the ideal font to use. That is because its thin letters help save space and you can, therefore, fit a lot of things within limited spaces.
Roboto comes in six weights and can be changed to italics to suit specific purposes. You can download and use it free of charge from Google Fonts.
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The next alternative to Helvetica you should consider is the Arimo font. It was designed by Steve Matteson who wanted to give somewhat of a fresh take to the popular Arial font.
One of the best things about this font is that it can work seamlessly on any platform including Android and computer applications. While it looks similar in many ways to Helvetica, you can spot the difference by focusing on its slightly taller letterforms.
It is available in four weights so you’ll have some freedom to adjust depending on the final result you wish to achieve. However, you should keep in mind that it does not have thinner weights so it may not be the best option to use on a UI that requires you to save space.
Apart from that, you’ll be pleased by its popping nature which makes it easy for anyone to read. It can be changed into italics and is classified as a variable font.
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Nimbus Sans L is another excellent substitute for Helvetica. Its design is based on the original Helvetica font which is why you are likely to spot striking similarities between the two.
For instance, the terminals of letters in both fonts have a vertical or horizontal design. The letters R and G are also quite similar.
To distinguish between the two fonts, you’ll need to focus on the coloring aspect. Nimbus Sans L has a darker shade and that means if you choose a larger size you’ll notice that its letters start becoming thicker than those on Helvetica.
The basic offering comes in two weights so you’ll be able to pick between them. You can also write in italics if that is what you prefer.
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TeX Gyre Heros is based on the Nimbus Sans L design which is why it is also similar to Helvetica. It comes in eight constituent faces with four being standard and another four being condensed.
It can be written in the form of italics if that is what your graphic designing project requires. This font was designed by GUST e-foundry and is classified under the sans-serif family of fonts.
Another critical thing to note is that you can use it to write text in a variety of languages without facing any difficulties. Because of its similarities and slight improvements to Helvetica, you can use it to write headlines and long-form content without experiencing any inconveniences.
6. Work Sans
Another option for Helvetica that can produce similar or better results is Work Sans by Wei Huang. It is a typeface that was based on early grotesques.
Many people compare it to typefaces that were developed by people such as Stephenson Blake, Miller & Richard, and Bauerschen Giesserei. The font was commissioned and released by Google Fonts in 2015 and has become, over the years, a popular choice for graphic designers around the world.
A look at the font will reveal a more relaxed writing style. It can even come across as being quirky thanks to properties such as the floppy tail of the letter ‘a’ and the almost protruding ear of the ‘g’.
It has more balanced spacing making it an ideal pick for casual designs rather than more formal ones. It comes in over eight weight options so you’ll have enough flexibility to choose one that is appropriate for your designing needs.
Like others on this list, Work Sans can be changed into an italics format.
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IBM Plex Sans is another impressive alternative you can download and start using for free. It was designed by Mike Abbink and Bold Monday.
It comes across as a more solid font when compared to Helvetica and a few other options on this list. One of the most striking features you’ll notice is that it has slightly squared-off letterforms and incorporates right angles in certain letters.
Because of this design, it comes across as a more technical or scientific font. Despite the design, it is quite legible which is why any graphics designer should consider it.
The font has over eight weights making it possible for you to use it on different templates without compromising legibility. You can use it in its original form or switch to italics when trying to emphasize certain points.
You can also use the condensed form of the font to write more elaborate texts in small spaces. It is another font that supports multiple languages so it works for designers of different nationalities.
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Another font you can use instead of Helvetica is Montserrat. It was a product of collaboration and improvement by various people including Julieta Ulanovsky, Sol Matas, Juan Pablo del Peral, and Jacques Le Bailly.
One of the best things about this font is that it is quite neat and can therefore be a good choice for anyone that wants to create headlines. Of course, you can also use its condensed versions to write long-form content without worrying about running out of space.
Some of its weight options include thin, regular, medium, and black. This font was specially designed to be used with different types of screens, so it can be a good idea to include it in a website or mobile application.
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Lato is the next font you can use when you want to break the monotony of having Helvetica on all your graphic design works. The font was designed by Łukasz Dziedzic, a Warsaw-based typeface designer.
It is another neat font with straight lines that make it possible for designers to use it on plenty of templates or backgrounds. It also blends well with other types of fonts.
It has been used alongside options like Ubuntu, Open Sans, and Roboto with exceptional results. While some substitutes to Helvetica are optimized for screens, Lato offers a more versatile solution.
That means you can use it on screen and in print without any complications. Note that it is also compatible with most modern browsers.
Lato comes in over four different weights so you can use it on headlines, subheadings, and even paragraphs. You also get the option to turn it into italics if that is what you want.
It supports different languages so you can use it in your native language without too much difficulty. Finally, it has rounded corners which make for seamless transitions between letters and words.
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10. Zilla Slab
Another free tool for graphics designers is Zilla Slab. It was developed by Typotheque back in 2013. One of the best things about this typeface is that it has neat spacing so that you can use it as a headline, subhead, or even in the main body of your text.
It comes in a variety of weights so you can change the color concentration and the size of the text easily. You’ll be pleased to know that its weights are available in both upper and lower case.
You can even change the width of your letters to ensure they fit properly on any background and Zilla Slab works for online websites or mobile applications.
You can also use it for certain print purposes including business cards and invitations. While Helvetica has horizontal and vertical terminals, Zilla Slab offers more rounded terminals which is probably the most important difference between the two fonts.
You can download and use it completely free of charge from Google Fonts.
The Poppins font family is a geometric sans-serif typeface. It was developed by Jonny Pinhorn and published by the Indian Type Foundry.
It borrows a lot of its characteristics from the Devanagari and Latin writing systems. You’ll notice the Devanagari properties when looking at letters that contain circular shapes.
The Latin influence stems from the fact that this typeface has similar glyphs to those in the Latin writing system. In most cases, the letters are monolinear and this ensures that the coloring is uniform throughout.
The Poppins font is available in various weights meaning you can use it in creating headlines, subheads, and even full articles. It comes in a 1MB file that downloads in seconds.
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Oswald is another impressive font that you should check out. It was designed by Vernon Adams, Kalapi Gajjar, and Cyreal.
Its characters are optimized for digital screens so it can be a good pick for computers and smartphones. This is especially true when you consider that the letters are designed to fit the pixel grid of standard screens seamlessly.
Since its launch in 2011, it has undergone a variety of improvements with Vernon Adams including light and bold weights. It also incorporated support for Latin and Cyrillic languages.
In 2019, it was updated with a variable font-weight axis which is why it is now possible to use it when working on different graphic design tasks.
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Raleway is considered to be one of the more elegant alternatives to Helvetica so you can use it when working on professional graphic design work.
It was designed by Matt Mclnerney with a single thin weight which made it an excellent choice for crafting full-length articles. Later, in 2012, Pablo Impallari and Rodrigo Fuenzalida expanded it by adding nine new weights so that users could have a variety to choose from.
Like most options on this list, you can use it in its italics format without experiencing any drawbacks. It is a good option for someone looking for a font with geometric sans-serif properties as opposed to neo-grotesque-inspired properties.
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Nunito is another option, specially designed for graphic designers that want something that strikes a balance between formal and informal fonts. It is another font that was designed by Vernon Adams and is characterized by rounded terminals.
During its launch, it only had a single weight. However, Jacque Le Bailey went on to expand it to include a full set of weights.
There is also a different version of this font called Nunito Sans. The main difference is that the Sans version has regular non-rounded terminals.
15. Tilt Prism
Finally, we have Tilt Prism. This is a family of typefaces that was created by Andy Clymer.
This family of fonts was inspired by the type of lettering you often find on signage. There are three options for you to choose including Tilt Prism, Tilt Neon, and Tilt Warp.
When working with these fonts, you can tilt or rotate the letters up to a 45-degree angle which means they remain legible. This font is best used for adverts rather than formal writing.
While Helvetica is a good typeface, it has become quite common and may not portray the image you want to create with your graphic designs.
To break the monotony without departing too much from this family of typefaces, it is a good idea to consider the various typefaces noted above.
Inter is undoubtedly one of the best options because it works seamlessly on different platforms and comes in multiple weights to suit different purposes.
The Tilt Prism family along with Oswald also offer unique alternatives for graphic designers who want to capture the attention of audiences easily.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.